‘Gayspeak’ in China: a(nother) case study

Simon Desmarais

During the last two years, I lived and worked in China, and while I was there, I noticed a very interesting phenomenon, related to sexuality and gender. Once again, this is based on my own experience; I haven’t done any legitimate research on this, and also, very importantly, I am not Chinese, I’m not an expert on the Chinese LGBTQ+ community’s linguistic practices, nor do I pretend to be; this post should only be viewed as what it is, an attempt to make sense of my experience regarding specific linguistic practices while living in China.

I think Van Herk (2012) does a very good job of summarizing work on gender and sexuality and language, but I still want to include here the notion of ‘gayspeak’, a set of linguistic features (higher pitch, elongated consonants, etc.) that indexes the speaker as gay. Drawing on work from Cameron and Kulick (2003), he argues that ‘gayspeak’ is used to perform a specific identity, in this case being gay.

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